Clara Morris

Clara Morris (March 17, 1849 – November 20, 1925) (her birth date is sometimes given as 1846/48) was an American actress.

Clara Morris
Clara Morris by George G. Rockwood
Clara Morrison

(1849-03-17)March 17, 1849
DiedNovember 20, 1925(1925-11-20) (aged 76)
Spouse(s)Frederick C. Harriott (m. 1874)


Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, her real name was Morrison. She was reared in Cleveland, Ohio, where at the Academy of Music she became a member of the ballet under the management of John A. Ellsler,[1] and afterward a leading actress.

For some years after 1885, she devoted herself mainly to literary work, writing: Little Jim Crow, and Other Stories of Children (1899); A Silent Singer (1899); Life on the Stage: My Personal Experiences and Recollections (1901); A Pasteboard Crown (1902); Stage Confidences (1902); The Trouble Woman (1904), fiction; The Life of a Star (1906); Left in Charge (1907); New East Lynne (1908); A Strange Surprise (1910); and Dressing Room Receptions (1911).

In her book Life on the Stage: My Personal Experiences and Recollections she recounts her meeting with John Wilkes Booth the assassin of Abraham Lincoln.[2]

Complete blindness overtook her in 1910, and her old age was embittered by poverty. The house in which she had lived for 37 years was sold in 1914, and Morris moved to Whitestone, Long Island.

Early career

After becoming a member of the ballet and relishing the success working under John A. Ellsler, she continued to work with him for ten years; ending up going from playing minor roles one night and major roles the next, until eventually sharing the leading business of the theatre with her manager. In the season of 1868, she ended her engagement with him.

Her next manager, Bernard Macauley of Wood's Theatre in Cincinnati, Ohio, only worked in her company for a little over a year, after which she moved to New York in 1870 as a member of Augustin Daly's company.

Mr. Daly engaged her to play in the Fifth-avenue Theatre, then located on West Twenty-fourth street; not as a leading act, but to fill whichever roles he deemed necessary. In the season of 1870-71, Man and Wife was in preparation for opening when the lead lady originally designated to play the role of Anne Silvester declined the part, and Ms. Morris stepped up to the position. On the opening night, September 13, she made her first debut in a major city, and ended up being recalled in an early scene in the play before the act was terminated - an unusual occurrence in the theatre at the time.

In 1872, she made a sensation in L'Article 47. Other successes followed and she became known as an actress distinguished for spontaneity and naturalness.

Personal life

She married Frederick C. Harriott in 1874. He was from Toronto.

There is a plaque on the grounds of the Cleveland Public Library marking the location of Clara Morris' home when she was young. The plaque reads: "On this site, in her girlhood, lived Clara Morris. With limited opportunities she overcame privation and, in her twenties, was recognized as the leading emotional actress on the American stage."


Other notable roles of her career are:

  • Lucy Carter in Saratoga
  • Mme. D'Artigues in Jezebel
  • Tilburnia in The Critic
  • Magdalen Vanstone in No Name
  • Constance Sherman in Delmonico's, or Larks Up the Hudson
  • Miss Lulu Tibbetts in An Angel


  1. "Clara Morris" (PDF). New York Clipper. New York Clipper. 1879-05-17. p. 60. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  2. Morris, Clara (1901). Life on the stage : my personal experiences and recollections. New York: McClure, Phillips & Co. pp. 97–108.
  • McKay and Wingate, Famous American Actors of To-Day, (New York, 1896)
  • Matthews and Hutton, Actors and Actresses of Great Britain and the United States, (New York, 1886)
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